Paris police authorities systematically wiped tens of thousands of crimes from their books as part of a decade-long cover-up to make the capital seem safer than it was, according to explosive government data released yesterday.

Some 16,000 criminal acts were airbrushed from police books for 2011 alone, an audit of crime figures for Paris revealed.

Manuel Valls, the Socialist Interior Minister, ordered the report in September 2012 to investigate how crimes were registered in the Paris area.

The authors uncovered a system in place for the past decade in which the number of crimes was consistently played down. They said that the cover-up began in earnest in 2008 - a year after Nicolas Sarkozy, the former centre-Right President, was sworn into office for a five-year term.


From then on, such practices were "organised, systematic" and "masterminded" by police superiors, the report found.

Techniques for cooking the books included dressing up thefts as simple "vandalism", consistently putting off registering crimes or simply striking them off the register.

In this way, 16,000 crimes were wiped from the books in 2011 and 13,000 in 2012, Paris police said. At the height of the cover-up, the capital's police force was run by Michel Gaudin, a Sarkozy loyalist.

Before becoming president Sarkozy gained huge popularity as France's interior minister, taking a tough stance on crime - and linking police pay to success in fighting crime.